Lebanese crops spoil as fighting closes Gulf land route

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Saudi arabia Jordan

One solution could be establishing a sea route to allow agricultural exports
One solution could be establishing a sea route to allow agricultural exports
Lebanese farmers are facing financial disaster following the closure of the main land route to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, after Syrian rebels seized the Nasib border crossing with Jordan.

The crossing, between Syria and Jordan, was the main transit point for goods from Syria and Lebanon heading to the Gulf states. An attack on 1 April forced Jordan to close its border to Syria, leaving 231 truck drivers stranded in Jordan or Saudi Arabia, with nine drivers kidnapped by the Nusra Front, and later released.

$1m a day losses

Farmers from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley normally export around two-thirds of their production to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, according to Ibrahim Tarshishi, president of the Association of Bekaa Farmers, quoted in The Daily Star. Now producers are being forced to cut their prices in an attempt to sell their harvests in the domestic market, costing them up to US$1m a day since the border closure.

Jordan is a key link between Lebanon and Arab countries, and with the closure of the Nasib crossing, we can say that the land export option is almost completely shut down, at least for the foreseeable future​,” said Tarshishi, quoted by Jordanian government news agency Petra.

One solution is the establishment of a sea route, which will allow some agricultural products to be exported. Lebanese and Jordanian government officials are currently in talks to finalise a Beirut-Aqaba sea route, presumably via the Suez canal, for which the Lebanese government would subsidise the additional costs.

Political row

The closure has sparked a row between Lebanese farmers and the government, with industry figures claiming the government has not done enough to compensate producers or provide alternative transportation arrangements quickly enough. The situation is likely to become increasingly difficult as time goes on, and more crops are ready to be harvested.

Currently the main crops affected are citrus fruits, with prices dropping by half since the start of the month. A 20kg shipment of oranges or lemons, which would previously have sold wholesale for around US$10, is now selling within Lebanon at around US$5.30, according to Ramiz Osseiran, head of a farmers’ association in southern Lebanon.

But with harvests of potatoes, onions, garlic, grapes and loquats are all due to begin within the next week or two, farmers’ losses will rise significantly. And many crops such as soft fruit would not be suitable for transportation by sea, according to farmers.

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